GSEE agrees organisational change

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At its 31st conference in November 2002, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) took a number of important decisions on organisational restructuring. There will be closer cooperation and, it is planned, eventual merger with the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY), along with greater coordination between GSEE member organisations at regional, prefectural and sector level. The conference also adopted measures on economic independence and amended GSEE's statutes.

On 23 and 24 November 2002, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) held its 31st organisational/constitutional conference. The decisions of the conference related first and foremost to the organisational restructuring of GSEE and the economic independence of trade unions. Decisions were also taken regarding certain important changes to the GSEE statutes.

Organisational restructuring

On the basis of decisions taken at the 26th GSEE in 1990, the following were determined to be the basic aims of organisational restructuring:

  • elimination of the extreme fragmentation of the trade union movement;
  • creation of flexible and effective structures in line with the new productive/economic model taking shape;
  • coordination of trade union organisations in order to achieve the optimum presence of the union movement in the country’s new administrative structures, where many important decisions on development are taken, which have an impact on all workers. Such coordination should lead to collective bodies that are effective in comparison with existing individual interventions;
  • independence in the management of trade unions’ finances, for the purpose of freeing them from state intervention so as gradually to achieve full economic independence for the union movement; and
  • discussions on the legal framework governing the trade union movement, and setting a timetable to re-examine the course of restructuring (five years was suggested).

In this context, a 'fourfold principle' has been seen as determining and running through every trade union restructuring effort, as follows:

  • one trade union in each workplace;
  • one federation for each sector of production or sector of economic activity;
  • one labour centre in each prefecture; and
  • one 'third-level' workers’ organisation (ie confederation).

On this basis, the 31st GSEE conference, decided on the following organisational changes

Cooperation with ADEDY

GSEE is in favour of the idea of a single third-level organisation for all workers. With the aim that the conditions for such unity may ripen through coordinated efforts, GSEE has decided jointly with the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) to create a consolidated bipartite National Coordinating Trade Union Council (or 'trade union congress') to investigate and take decisions on strategic options, priorities and far-reaching tactical options for the union movement. Furthermore:

  • following a decision by the executives of the GSEE and ADEDY, joint secretariats will be set up in sectors where there is believed to be a need for, and a possibility of, following a common course of action;
  • efforts will be made towards achieving a single voice in international relations and European participatory bodies;
  • similar practices will be developed at local, prefectural and regional levels, aimed at a common understanding and a common course; and
  • joint initiatives will be taken immediately in the sectors of health, education and culture.

It was decided to move in the direction of a merger of GSEE and ADEDY within the next five years.

Regional level

In each of the country’s 13 regions - or in accordance with the regional structure at any given time - a regional coordinating council will be created. It will be composed of an equal number of members from the organisations involved on an equal footing, following proposals by the labour centres of each region and following a decision by the GSEE executive, which will see to it that all trends in the union movement are represented without a preponderance of any particular faction or factions.

The work of the regional councils will include:

  • coordination of the activity of the regional union movement on matters of central trade union interest promoted by GSEE; and
  • collective elaboration and coordination of activity on matters of regional interest, such as the content of regional development, the development of initiatives at regional level, the development of the comparative advantages of each prefecture, and actions with a regional development content (housing, health, education, culture, employment etc).

Prefecture level

In every prefecture where there is more than one labour centre, a prefectural coordinating council will be set up, following a proposal by the labour centres concerned and a decision by the GSEE executive, which will see to it that all the trends in the prefecture’s trade union movement are equally represented, have equal standing and are assured of a voice.

The work of the coordinating councils will include:

  • coordination of the activity of the prefecture’s labour centres on issues of local or national interest;
  • the launch of an organised dialogue and efforts to remove obstacles and achieve voluntary unification of the organisations concerned by the most expedient means, safeguarding the infrastructure they have secured.

Sector level

In every sector of production or broader sector of economic activity where more than one trade union federation operates, a sectoral coordinating council will be set up. Taking account of the decisions of the 26th GSEE conference (1990), the new measures agreed at the 31st conference and mainly the wishes of the organisations themselves, GSEE will determine which federations will constitute and participate in each coordinating council. The federations are called on to submit their proposals in writing to the GSEE executive, which will then take the decision on the final proposal. The composition of the council will be determined following these proposals by the federations and a decision by GSEE, ensuring all existing trade union forces in the sector of equal representation on an equal footing.

The councils will coordinate the activity of the federations on matters of concern to the sector, and will be a 'tribune for dialogue and exchange of views, with the aim of finding means for their unification'.

The 2002 conference proclaimed the need for an organisational and constitutional 'opening up' of the federations belonging to GSEE. These federations were set up years ago, often on the basis of business units that were monopolistic in nature (such as the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation or the Public Power Corporation). Such an adaptation is necessary in order for workers’ associations, chiefly in new private business units that have been or will be created due to the changes taking place in the country’s economy, to join the federations.

Economic independence

The conference took the following decisions regarding the economic independence of trade unions:

  • employers are called on to collect trade union dues from all workers - except for any workers refusing to join a union - and to pay such dues together to the trade union organisations concerned; and
  • the state is called on to introduce legislation providing that workers themselves should manage the resources of the Workers’ Welfare Foundation which contribute to funding the operation of trade unions. It is proposed to create a special account as part of the Workers’ Welfare Foundation and the public accounts, to be managed by a committee representing the unions' various political factions. This account would operate on the basis of regulations ensuring the necessary transparency and access for organisations to sources of funding on an equal footing.

Changes to statutes

With regard to amendments to GSEE's statutes, the most important change at the November 2002 conference was the abolition of Article 41, providing for a ceiling on the number of consecutive terms of office of the president and general secretary of GSEE, as well as of the members of the executive committee and executive board.

A proposed name change for GSEE from the Greek General Confederation of Labour to the Greek General Confederation of Employees did not take place, as only 71% of delegates voted in favour, instead of the required 75%.

Commentary

The decisions taken at the 26th GSEE conference in 1990 were aimed at creating 21 sectoral federations out of the total of 84 existing in 1989 (their number has now fallen to 65), and at creating one labour centre per prefecture - ie a total of 52 instead of the 86 registered with GSEE in 1989 (now down to 82). However, the decisions of the 26th conference were never put into practice, and as a result the organisational restructuring of the trade union movement with a view to boosting its effectiveness has not been achieved. In this context, the question is to what degree the dialogue processes among the individual organisations over the implementation of the decisions of the 31st conference will bear fruit, providing in practice a decisive solution to the questions of organisational restructuring, by putting an end to the organisational fragmentation of the trade union movement. (Giannis Kouzis, INE/GSEE-ADEDY)

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